Student Initiative Will Eliminate Plastic Bottle Sales

In a recent meeting, Dean of Students, Mr. James Stanley; Chief Financial Officer, Mr. Richard Saltz; and Students Against Climate Change (SACC) formed a mandate to be issued this spring ending the sale of plastic water bottles on campus. According to Mr. Saltz, “Water in plastic bottles, plain or sparkling, will not be sold in the Choate Store, Tuck Shop or Lanphier Café.” This mandate marks the chief accomplishment of SACC’s student-driven water bottle initiative, founded by former SACC president Liv Elmore ’16. A member of the new SACC cabinet, Varshini Kumar ’17, said, “As a club, we were trying to step away from just talking about environmental problems and move closer to actually solving them.”

The initiative began with research on how plastic water bottles harm the environment. Next, members of SACC visited dorms in Memorial Circle to dig through trash receptacles, collecting all the plastic water bottles they found — ­a total of around seventy. ­These water bottles were placed on tables in the dining hall with a sheet of paper showing statistics about the environmental dangers of purchasing and discarding so many plastic water bottles.

Danielle Young ’17, another SACC member involved in the initiative, explained, “I think people will think from now on about their consumption, even if only for a bit. People have perceptions about the taste and safety of water and will continue to live with these concerns until someone adequately gets information out challenging their accepted notions. That is one thing we’ve been working on.”

At an all-school meeting, SACC members presented facts about plastic water bottles, environmental ramifications, and how we as a school can help to mitigate the problem. Several students from SACC also met with Director of Sustainability, Ms. Katrina Homan, who is an adviser to both SACC and the Conservation Proctors, to learn about her previous attempts to eliminate plastic water bottles. They hoped hearing about her experiences would help them prepare themselves for issues and challenges they might face. Some of Choate’s peer schools, such as Exeter, have already eliminated the sale of plastic water bottles. SACC felt their plan had a shot.

After much discussion and further research, SACC contacted Mr. Stanley and Mr. Saltz with their proposal. SACC found little trouble in convincing Mr. Stanley and Mr. Saltz about their plan. “They were already very supportive,” Kumar said. “The meeting was more about the logistics of actually implementing the plan and talking about sustainability on the Choate campus in general.”

In the meeting, the students presented the possibility of water filters in dorms. Instead of students buying water bottles, placing a water filter over the tap could help to promote filling up reusable water bottles. In dorms where filters cannot be installed, refrigerators with built-in filters could be used. Of this progress, Mr. Saltz said, “The School’s sustainability mission is to reduce the use of plastic, providing every student with a reusable plastic bottle and increasing the number of bottle-filling spots at water fountains in buildings and dorms. Therefore, there should be less need for buying water.” However, a large obstacle for the initiative is the use of plastic water bottles on graduation day. Because of the heat, plastic water bottles are typically placed under the seats and passed out to faculty during the ceremony; no clear solution has been found.

The meeting’s end product — the mandate against selling plastic water bottles on campus — will aid the community in taking an enormous step towards environmental conservation. However, this problem is not fully resolved. Kumar explained, “A water bottle bought from the school store hurts just as much as a water bottle bought at Walmart. Ideally, students will be more aware of the issue and more in control of their actions.”

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